Review: Yume Wo Katare

Yume Wo Katare, the ramen place in Porter Square, had a lot of hype for something that served only 1 dish: pork ramen. I had wanted to check it out long ago but long lines and the hours that they were open (5pm-11pm Tue-Sat) made it highly inconvenient.

As K was with her dad for Halloween night I finally had my ramen opportunity. It was cold-ish (40s) so the 30 or so minutes or so I spent in line only made me anticipate the hot savory soup even more.

IMG_4381.JPGthe goal was to get inside

The fact that I was sandwiched between 2 youngish so in love couples (not pictured) almost made me a little sad until my single patron status rushed me to the head of the line. Score. At the top I was given a choice of regular ($12) with 2 slices of pork or buta ramen ($15) which had 5. The small room had 3 bench style tables. The servers instructed you where to sit and sometimes they broke up the bigger groups. The place could probably fit 30 at a time comfortably.

Ramen was prepared by a chef wearing a baseball cap. The noodles looked substantial and the air warm and fragrant with broth. I was directed to wait with others whose orders were taken. Periodically, we were told to please pay attention to someone who had finished their meal and would say something like:

“Hi my name is Sean and I got a GOOD JOB. My dream is to finish my undergrad.”

Or

“I’m Shelby and my dream is to experience all that life has to offer. And I got a NEXT TIME.”

The room would then cheer and politely clap and the eater would excuse themselves and go.

The cashier helpfully explained that Yume Wo Katare means “talk about your dream” so patrons were encouraged to share theirs with all the others in the room. Striving to finish your entire bowl (PERFECT!) is like striving to accomplish your dream. After that, it was second nature to me to clap and awww over the shared dreams as well add an enthusiastic “GOOD JOB!”

My bowl arrived shortly with the extra garlic option. The first bite was savory and rich and did taste like a dream. The fatty pork was the highlight of the bowl- creamy and melt in your mouth. I burned my tongue slurping hot al dente noodles mixed with the soft crunch of lettuce and bean sprout.

IMG_4382.JPGof course get the extra yakiniku (garlic)

By time I got to about half my bowl it was clear that achieving perfection would take work. I ended up with a GOOD JOB (only a little broth remaining) and proudly shared my dream of raising my daughter to be a strong and confident woman. Was it the best ramen I ever had? Not really. But the experience was definitely unique.

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Yume Wo Katare is located at 1923 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA (Porter Square).

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Life is short: Eat snow

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I remember the first time I saw snow. It was 8:30 am and I was at the 6th floor of 700 Albany Street watching it fall in tiny flakes, coating the rooftops. It mesmerized me so much that when my boss came in to see me staring out the window instead of starting my experiment for the day (probably PCR or DNA extractions) all I could blurt out was “Look! Snow! Pretty!” He laughed at my naïveté.

Because I grew up in a tropical country, my knowledge of snow (winter, really) was full of misconceptions:

I thought it tasted like sugar.

I didn’t know it came in various types ranging from coat the power lines wet to snowball perfect to powdery.

I didn’t know that wearing an ugly puffy jacket was better than 4 layers under a stylish wool coat.

I didn’t know it turned slushy dirty a few days after it coated the world white.

I didn’t know that it could persist in pile form until March.

I didn’t know that shoveling it was a pain, literally.

My Swedish friend R has warned me about my penchant for eating snow. You don’t know what’s in there, she says. Don’t be fooled by how nice and white and clean it seems. She begged me to melt a bowl of it and see how dirty it was. 20140205-205530.jpg

But snow is among the (weird) things that Katie and I love to eat. It is on the level of marshmallow Peeps, Cadbury mini eggs and edamame as our favorite treat foods. We now have a standard for eatable snow (if possible, freshly fallen, take the top layer from at least Katie height on plants..) which makes me feel a teeny bit better about the minuscule dirt particles we are ingesting.

It’s foolish but I think the joy outweighs the consequences. Someday I know Katie will find everything I do or say to be annoying and uncool and I’m kind of okay with that. In the meantime, we shall eat snow. Together.

We usually eat it plain but today was a snow day so we had access to flavored syrup 🙂
20140205-153353.jpgfresh from the backyard20140205-153401.jpgshe wants hers to have 3 flavors: grape, blue raspberry and cherry20140205-153410.jpgnoms!

San Francisco is <3 (a very late post)

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Because of my blogging hiatus I was unable to share our most awesome vacation to San Francisco. This chilly winter day seems appropriate enough to look back (in Filipino: balik-tanaw) at our happy time there.

We didn’t really take a vacation last summer so when C&C invited me to their fall wedding, and friend MM offered for us to stay in her apartment, I decided the stars were right for a Nanay and Katie adventure!

I used Delta miles for my ticket and paid for Katie’s which cut down on a lot of the airfare. I bought each of us a San Francisco City Pass ($84/adult, $59/child) which gave entrance tickets to 4 attractions and unlimited rides on public transport including the famed cable cars. I also borrowed a Frommer’s San Francisco guidebook from the library and downloaded a Lonely Planet app. Once there, our host told me to also download a Muni tracker app. I relied on both apps extensively on my phone to get around as I have very poor navigational skills.

It’s a good thing we had those passes because Katie’s absolute favorite part of the trip was riding public transport particularly the cable cars. We must have ridden them at least 6 times! Without the pass it would have cost $6 per ride or $72 for both of us– eep!

Aside from the fact that they are a technological marvel, I liked using the cable cars because they were slow enough so i could almost always tell where we were or at least find where we were on he map or phone . We also learned to skip the turnaround and ride 3 stops ahead so we didn’t have to get into the loooooong lines to board.
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At the Powell Street turnaround with Fakecheese the turtle and Slither the snake

Out Citypass allowed us to visit the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park (5 stars! so much to see and do inside and within the park), take a scenic tour via boat (Blue and Gold Fleet– 5 stars and Katie’s favorite), and see the sharks at the Aquarium by the Bay (meh: 2 stars, go to Monterey Bay instead). We were unable to visit the Exploratorium, a hands on science museum for kids, because it was closed on Mondays (darn!).

We were able to do quite a lot of sightseeing in 4 days. Katie was able to ride 2 of the 3 carousels in the city. San Francisco was very accessible by public transport (bus, train, streetcar and cable car) and the weather in late September/early October was gorgeously sunny and cool. No fog until our last day there although it was scarf and hoodie weather off and on. The city had a nice laid back, chill and feel good atmosphere. We definitely would like to make a trip back someday.

Katie’s picks: the playground and carousel at Golden Gate Park, eating Doritos with hot chocolate at Ghirardelli Square (and getting free samples at their 3 stores), cable car rides and the Cable Car museum, carousel at Pier39, riding the F street car, boat tour via Blue and Gold.

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Nanay’s highlights: meet ups with former classmates and online friends, Union Square particularly the Dewey Memorial (Philippines reprezent!), fortune cookies made by hand in Chinatown, fun wedding (with childcare) at the Fairmont Hotel, riding down the crooked Lombard Street and quality time with Katie of course.
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We both liked: eating! Particularly these jumbo shrimp.

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We both did not like: the noisy sea lions

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In search of Samantha

Santa is my weakness. My parents made Santa so magical for me that I am compelled to do the same for Katie. I remember the awe of coming back after late night (not quite midnight) Christmas Eve mass to find presents under the tree. Santa always seemed to know what I wanted and later on, I would write letters to help him out. He never disappointed.

Now Katie has never been a fan of Santa or any mascot in costume. Take for instance my attempt at a Christmas photo with Santa in 2009:
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However, Santa did give nice presents so I guess from a distance she was able to deal with him.

Two Christmases ago, Santa brought K her favorite toy: Magnatiles. It was quite miraculous, not only because the delivery was magical but also as it required going halves with my ex-husband because I couldn’t afford them on my own (awkward but chalked up to “for the good of the child”).

As early as December 1, K already knew what to ask for
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American Girl. I never understood how dolls could be so pricy and I had hoped that we would be able to dodge this bullet because K prefers stuffed animals over dolls. Apparently they are all the rage in elementary school starting 1st or 2nd grade. Splitting with the ex was out of the question (“Oh, hell no!”) so I was going to be on my own.

K initially wanted Samantha, the orphan girl who grew up with her grandmother, befriended a kitchen maid and stood up for child labor in the 1900’s. In the looks department, she was cute (as long as you got over the, um, creepy eyes and rabbit teeth) and had brown hair and eyes like Katie. I scoured eBay for a used Samantha in decent condition ($70+$20 shipping) and by mid month was all set. After a quick trip to the Natick/Boston store doll spa for a cleaning ($5) and hairdo freshening ($10), the previously unavailable retired doll was ready to go under the tree. Of course at some point in December K had also switched her choice from Samantha to Saige (2013 girl of the year who fought to have art classes funded in her school despite having stage fright and being quite shy –$119 in store) but Santa had already depleted her budget and didn’t want to get stuck with 2 dolls.

The result was magical (<– link to video). And as always, worth the effort. P.S. 3 weeks later, she is still playing with Samantha every day. That is totally a win.

Merry Happy Holidays from us!
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Making quality time out of nothing at all

20130722-105101.jpgThis is a picture Katie and I made last weekend. It took us 2 days to finish and possibly makes up for all her other drawings on paper where she didn’t use all the white space. You probably can’t tell but it is a castle with rainbow turrets, a yellow flag for me, a pink flag for her and a fabulous green background with multi colored polka dots.

This is Katie’s idea of quality time.

I am going to look at this picture to remind myself that quality time need not be that carefully planned, perfect moment. That making memories doesn’t always require going someplace new or spending a lot of money.

I am going to look at this picture when Katie asks to play/read/snuggle and I am thinking of the things I think I have to do (like fold laundry) or want to do (like take a nap) instead of playing/reading/snuggling.

I am going to look at this picture when she is talking to me and I am itching to take out my phone and people-watch on Facebook. Or check my email. Or play Candy Crush.

I am going to look at this picture and remember that right now she wants to hang out with me and it’s not going to stay like that forever. I only maybe have a couple of years before I become uncool.
20130726-161026.jpg2013: still on the favorite list.

This morning Katie announced “I wish it were tomorrow so it’s a Nanay and Katie day with no camp and no work”. I have a feeling we are coloring again tomorrow. Or playing princess tea party. Or dancing wildly. Or maybe even sorting socks and putting away the spoons and forks. Together. Whatever it is, I am preparing to give my undivided attention (at least in 10 minute chunks).

The days are long, but the years are short. And I know I will never regret time well spent with my best girl.

At home in the streets of Boston

Today was a perfect day to go to a sprinkler park. We made a day of going to Downtown Boston with best friend Wubby, them in swimsuits and me in my trusty summer hat. The girls were a cheap date. We took the T ($2), played in the Rose Kennedy Greenway Rings fountain (free) and had ice cream from Emack and Bolios ($3/kiddie cone) while looking at seals in the New England Aquarium (free). The girls decided to walk to the Frog Pond for more water play (free) and a carousel ride ($3) with the caveat that we would rest as needed. Rest turned out to be Dunkin Donuts (munchkins for them, dark roast iced coffee for me) and Bath and Body Works for personal sparkly hand sanitizer ($1.50 with case).
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How refreshing it is to explore the city with children. They donned their sunglasses and sashayed like they owned the place. They took turns looking for the “red brick road” aka Freedom Trail that would lead us to our destination. They tried not to chase the pigeons and waited for me to cross the street with them. Wubby was more genial than my daughter, chirping a bright “Hi!” or “Hello” to every tourist, baby or dog that came our way. Inevitably, we met people for whom the streets have become home. And before I could stop her, she was already talking to a girl who looked like she was in her 20s.

Wubby: (reading from sign) Every bit helps…homeless. (To lady) What does homeless mean?
Girl on street: It means I don’t have a place to live.
Katie: Why?
GOS: I lost my job so I can’t pay for a place to live. But I am looking and hopefully soon I can have a home.
Wubby: My family is moving to another house but you can’t live in our apartment because the people downstairs are having twins so they are moving upstairs.
GOS: That’s ok. If they are having twins they must need the space more than me.
Wubby: (pointing to backpack) What’s in there?
Katie: Is that ALL of your stuff?

We try to shield our children from the unpleasant, and the ugly, and hope they will never have to deal with these things. Avoidance makes it easier to tune things out and pretend that all is well but we lose the opportunity to teach tolerance and compassion. The reality is that the world is not all pink and fluffy, but black and white and infinite shades of gray all of which our children deserve to know about, if not experience. In their innocence, neither girl was uncomfortable discovering the harshness of life.

We resumed walking and I answered more questions. I stopped myself from telling Katie that we were homeless too, once, and that Wubby’s parents had been one of those who had offered us a place to stay. I held their sticky hands when what I really wanted to do was give them a big hug.

“Peng, how come some people can’t have a place to live? Why isn’t there work for everybody?”

“I wish me and Wubby could be fairies and unicorns with magic so we can give her a home.”

“If me and Katie were giants or Martians maybe we can give that lady a job and we can MAKE her a house.”

Thank you Katie and Wubby. You are hope for the future.
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***
P.S. While chatting, we found out that our new friend had worked with animals before she lost her job. I was able to tip her about applying to my old workplace. I hope she finds work soon.

On vacation with friends of friends

I am sipping my coffee in beautiful Vermont, listening to birds and watching the sun spread light over the trees and mountains. We are here for part of the weekend on the invitation of a dear friend’s dear friend.
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A close knit family is as essential to a Filipino as white rice is to adobo. As transplants from the motherland, we have had to make our own families here. Thus, friends of friends and their friends become cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Just like at home.

My bestie Maya is one of those people who are adept at making an ever expanding circle of good-as-family friends. For instance, all the 13 adults in the house are somehow connected to her: through high school (soirée!), college, dance, or when she first moved to NYC. I met our host through Maya when we were pregnant with our first borns. 6 years later, our children become fast friends, roaming the house’s many secret passages, refreshing their kindergarten phonics lessons and even deciding to have a “sleepover”.

The air is sweeter in the country. After living under the city lights for so long you forget what a massive blanket of stars looks like. We swam in a pond, played on rocks, even waded through a rushing stream. As we return to the bustle and noise, to being awakened by ambulances and drunk college kids, I am grateful for the reminder of a world so massive and peaceful.

Thank you M and J for an awesome time.

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